Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Post 8

School's In! Let the Gambling Begin??

Yellow buses roaming neighborhood streets, school parking lots full, back packs and lunch boxes on sale, and "Freshmen Welcome!": all signs that school is back in session. Then too, on college campuses, there are other indications of, once-again, student activity: abundant credit card applications, laptops in every dorm room, the shuffle of cards, and the jingling of poker chips in student gathering spots. Signs of on-campus gambling ... or, at least, fertile grounds for student gambling? You betcha.

But let's not limit this assumption to the college arena. Several years ago, a friend employed by a nearby school system, shared with me what had happened one day. After lunch, sixth graders had excitedly reported to him "Mr. ---, we've been gambling!" Of course, my friend passed on this communication with a prompt message to the principal. Turns out, the kids had been playing poker in the cafeteria for money. Gladly, I can share that there was follow-up by the administration to this incident.

An exceptionally rare event? Perhaps in some schools. Perhaps, not. Children may begin gambling as early as grade school age (age 10) and usually continue their gambling over a number of years. Keith Whyte, Director, National Council on Problem Gambling, observed in 2006, that “Approximately 70 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have gambled at least once in the past year. That’s the highest [percentage] in our nation’s history.” (Current Health 1, February 2006). That was more than four years ago. Have things changed since then? I welcome comments to this Blog in answer to that question.

On the college scene, the National Council on Problem Gambling reports the rate of gambling on sports by college students is twice as high as that of adults. Also noted by NCPG is that an estimated 30% of 18 million college students will gamble on sports this year alone (2007). Once more, that was three years ago ... Remember, gambling is not limited to sports betting. On-line gambling , with all of its built-in dangers, is quite accessible with over 2,000 websites and the point spread is highly publicized in the media. Of course, poker games may dot campasses like raindrops on a windshield during a thunder storm.

What then, are signs of a child/teen/young adult problem gambler? Mainly, look for the following:
* missing school, activities, or other events due to gambling
* grades dropping
* displays an intense interest in sports related literature or sporting events on TV
* makes a few calls a week to sports phone
* gambling jargon has increased during conversation
* large amounts of money or an exaggerated display of clothes or jewelry are shown
* gambles to escape worry or trouble
* family members or friends have noticed a change in personality (irritable, sarcastic) * money is heavily borrowed and some personal or family items are missing

Let us remember that this is the first generation of Indiana youth who have been exposed to legalized gambling and an array of advertising (for various gambling venues) throughout their lives. Youth who have an addiction to gambling are more likely to have:

(1) parents with gambling problems
(2) become involved in illegal activities
(3) experience suicidal thoughts

For information on treatment and support recovery groups, go to http://www.grmumc.org/

Rev. Janet Jacobs
Director, Gambling Recovery Ministries